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Report: Up to 145 Million Asian Children in Forced Labor

September 18, 1995

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ More than 100 million Asian children _ some as young as 4 _ are forced to work in appalling conditions to make consumer products for Western nations, an Australian group charged Monday.

The Anti-Slavery Society said between 104 million and 146 million children, most in India, are making car parts, jewelry, clothing, toys, food, fireworks, chemicals and other goods in sweatshops.

``The punishments meted out to these children by their owners defy description,″ said Paul Bravender-Coyle, spokesman for the Melbourne-based group. ``They have been burned, branded with red-hot irons, starved, whipped, chained up, raped and kept locked in cupboards for days on end.″

The society, which is devoted to ending child labor exploitation, estimates that between 73 million and 115 million children are working in India alone.

Other nations cited by the group as tolerating forced child labor were Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, China, Thailand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The group’s London affiliate counts 500,000 child slaves in Pakistan, 300,000 in India and 110,000 in Nepal in the carpet industry alone. The number of children slaving in other industries is unknown.

Children generally work from 6 a.m. to midnight, have no regular meal breaks and are beaten for spending longer than three minutes in stench-ridden toilets, Bravender-Coyle said.

``In most of these sweatshops, children are forced to eat, sleep and work in the same stuffy, overcrowded room,″ Bravender-Coyle said. Doors and windows are locked or barred to prevent escape, he said.

The society did not disclose the names of companies its investigations link to goods made by exploited children. Bravender-Coyle said many companies are unaware how their overseas products are manufactured, and often cancel contracts when provided with evidence of child exploitation.

Western countries receiving goods made by children include the United States, Canada, Australia and all members of the European Union.

Last week, Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narashimha Rao announced plans to remove 2 million children ``from hazardous occupations″ by the year 2000. India now requires that children be paid the same as adults, taking away the biggest incentive for employing children _ low-cost labor.

Indonesian officials, however, maintain no country has the right to criticize others on child labor, since it is prevalent in all countries including the United States.

Indonesia allows poor children under age 14 to work four hours a day in jobs that are not dangerous. Despite programs to eradicate child labor, government statistics show that 2.4 million Indonesian children between 10 and 14 years of age work.

In Bangladesh, garment manufacturers have an accord with UNICEF to end child labor by September 1997. Bangladesh’s garment industry is the country’s largest foreign exchange earner, employing thousands of children under 14 and exporting $2 billion of garments a year to the United States.

The manufacturers say only 10,000 of the country’s 1 million workers are children, but volunteer agencies say the number is much higher.

The Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights was founded in 1839 and is the oldest human rights organization in the world. It has members in 30 countries.

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